In a bid to maintain quality and ensure adherence to standard practices, the Tea Board of India has put in place a system of monitoring small tea growers (STGs) and bought leaf factories (BLFs).
This would be done through daily on-site visits by Tea Board officials, who have also been asked to take an on-site selfie, the Tea Board said in an order recently. In the order, the Board directed all Development Officers and Factory Advisory Officers posted at the Board’s different regional and sub regional offices, to regularly visit BLFs to prevent unauthorised operations and malpractices.
They would also check the green leaf standards at both BLF and STG levels.
Officers have been asked to check spraying logs for Plant Protection Code (for checking chemicals use) compliance as well. Tea Board Executive Directors at Guwahati and Coonoor, and the Deputy Director, Tea Development, at Siliguri, Jalpaiguri, Palampur and Dibrugarh have been made the nodal officers for monitoring the work of the BLF sector.
Tea Board officials said that many BLFs were found wanting in respect of following best practices. Putting in place a regular system of surveillance would also help improve the output quality of STG and their prices.
Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers Associations (CISTA) chief Bijoy Chakravorty said that this was a good move which would help protect the image of small tea growers. “Although they are now contributing nearly 50% of India’s tea output, there is a perception that in the absence of standardisation and checks, their quality is a problem,” he said.
Satish Mitruka, the immediate past president of the North Bengal Tea Producers Welfare Association, denied that the BLF sector was involved in any wrongdoing, saying that a majority of BLF owners were producing good teas and conforming to rules. The STG segment contributed 46.8% of India’s tea crop in 2017-18. In the absence of processing facilities, they sell their crop mostly to bought leaf factories. Most tea companies supplement their own crop by buying teas from the BLF. Mcleod Russel, among India’s largest bulk tea producers, bought about 21 lakh kg from the STG segment in 2017-18.